The New Orleans Saints are still looking for consistent tight end play after trading Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, and they acquired Michael Hoomanawanui on Wednesday with that in mind.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe noted the New England Patriots traded Hoomanawanui to the Saints. Any desperate fantasy football owners hoping for a breakout season from the former Illinois Fighting Illini playmaker may have a light at the end of the tunnel now that he is no longer behind Rob Gronkowski on the depth chart.
Hoomanawanui notched three catches for 44 yards last season. He has been in the league since 2010 and never tallied more than 146 receiving yards in a single season. That career high happened to come in his rookie campaign with the St. Louis Rams, when he also caught three of his four total touchdowns.
Yes, not playing with Gronkowski means Hoomanawanui should see more targets and have the chance to play a featured role in an offense—Volin pointed out Hoomanawanui wasn’t even active in the Patriots’ last game because Mike Williams is the blocking tight end—but those numbers are discouraging from a fantasy standpoint.
Hoomanawanui also won’t have Tom Brady anymore to hit him in stride when he does see the field.
In theory, joining the Saints shouldn’t mean much drop-off in quarterback play with Drew Brees, but the signal-caller missed his team’s last game with a right shoulder injury. The 36-year-old also didn’t quite look like vintage Brees in two games this year with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
However, Brees understands how to utilize tight ends in the passing attack from his years with Graham. He will at least look Hoomanawanui’s way if the tight end is open.
What’s more, the Saints defense is an abysmal 26th in the league in points allowed per game. New Orleans will play from behind a number of times this season with that defense, which will force it to put the ball in the air. That is good news for the fantasy values of all the pass-catchers, including Hoomanawanui.
Ultimately, the 27-year-old is only a fantasy option if he can beat out the other tight ends on the roster.
According to the depth chart, that means Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill. Considering Watson only has 73 receiving yards on the season and Hill has 12, it’s not like Hoomanawanui has to beat out historically great tight ends for snaps.
There is plenty to like from a fantasy standpoint about this trade if you are considering adding Hoomanawanui from the waiver wire to fill in at tight end because of injuries or a bye week. The chance to play with Brees in an offense that will be forced to throw throughout the season is enticing.
Still, there is absolutely no reliable track record in place. At best, you should monitor Hoomanawanui’s early progress on the Saints to see if he earns significant playing time and whether Brees trusts him near the goal line.
Only then will the tight end be worth consideration for your fantasy lineup.
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